#TeamSugarFree

Hi BAMs! Ruth here with a quick blog post about #TeamSugarFree.

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Last night in some late BAMchat, one of the ladies remarked that she really wanted some sugary snacks and I said something like, “Don’t do it! I’ve been sugar-free for 2.5 weeks! We can do it together! #TeamSugarFree” Her response was, “I’m in!” Followed quickly by “Wait. What did I just sign up for?”

Some of you may have figured out that I have numerous dietary issues (gluten-free, dairy free, egg free, and violently allergic to alcohol, even in cooking… no, it doesn’t all cook off…). The most recent addition, confirmed via blood test, is cane sugar. On a scale of 1-6, where 6 is the highest, I score somewhere around 5.5 on sensitivity to cane sugar. In fact, it’s worse than any of my other food sensitivities (except alcohol).

What happens when I eat it? Nothing right away. Oh no. That would make it too easy. No, my sugar issue builds up over a few days and causes incredible inflammation and aches in my joints and puffiness in my whole body. Not to mention headaches, fatigue, and lethargy.

This was a horrible discovery. Giving up bread was bad enough (I am a baker at heart and grew up baking bread with my Mum). And ice cream. And pizza. And eggs in the morning. Those were all tough, but I adapted and have become pretty good at baking alternatives, and I actually enjoy both the baking and the eating!

But candy?

I am the person who eats brown sugar lumps from the jar, drinks maple syrup from the jug (only the real stuff), makes the apple crisp topping as a snack, puts away a half pound bag of M&Ms in one sitting, thinks cheap Hershey’s chocolate bars are God’s gift to humankind, and has been known to whip up a batch of homemade frosting so I can eat it while watching TV.

It’s been hard for me to give up sugar. I’ve done everything from cold turkey (which lasted a couple of months and then I said “oh I’ve got this now… I can ease back in to moderation…”), to cheat days (Saturday Sugarday), to counting calories of which sugar could be any part.

Didn’t matter. It wasn’t until I fully accepted the following statement that I was able to grok (Yes, it’s a real word. Click here for the definition.) the impact of my “sugar sensitivity.”

My sugar addiction is real and is a part of me.

And I don’t say that laughingly. My family has serious food issues, including three women who have had to deal with anorexia nervosa and/or bulimia nervosa. All three of my sisters share similar food sensitivities as I do (all diagnosed in the last two years). In addition, my family history back a couple of generations includes alcohol addiction. So addiction and food issues are a thing. A real thing.

Then there’s the constant barrage of information on the evils of sugar. Some key points on sugar information available out there (also a fun article here from Nerd Fitness):

  • Sugar has a negative impact on heart disease that is separate and distinct from the weight increase caused by sugar. This means that it’s a double whammy, and you can still increase your risk of heart disease by eating sugar even if you’re not overweight.
  • Sugar is sugar is sugar. Whether it’s maple syrup or honey or whatever. I happen to be sensitive to cane sugar, but it’s all one and the same with respect to health.
  • Eating more sugar displaces other healthier calories in our daily intake.
  • The average American eats 22 teaspoons of sugar a day, and one in ten get 25% of their daily calories from sugar.

So for the past 2.5 weeks I have been sugar-free. This means zero cane sugar. If there is sugar in a recipe I use coconut sugar (which is really good and indistinguishable from brown sugar in baking) or maple syrup or honey. I don’t put anything in my tea anymore. Nothing on my oatmeal. There is nothing in my house that can tempt me except what’s in my baking cupboard (for when I bake for others).

And, I rely on my co-First Ladies, Linda & Sarah, to help me be accountable for my food choices every day. I actually text them at the end of the day to let them know what I put in my mouth that day (other than my foot, which happens on occasion). They also taught me to think of food as fuel, and before I put something sugary in my mouth think, “will I feel better after I eat this? Does my body need this?” The answer is always no.

And of course my trainer, Kim, has been awesome support as well. One of the things she taught me is that 3 o’clock on any given day is the time when the sugar craving hits hard. Sugar O’Clock, we call it, and I make sure to have a different snack on hand at that time.

It’s been 2.5 weeks. The inflammation is gone. The puffiness is gone. I feel fantastic. And my birthday is coming up. I’m thinking of allowing myself a piece of birthday cake on April 21st. After all, it’s 50, and it’s a pretty big milestone, and I’ll be in NYC. But that will be my first treat in over a month and then I’ll be back on the wagon. For me it’s not “oh an occasional treat now and then…” Nope. Can’t do it.

So that’s my story. If you want to jump on the #TeamSugarFree wagon with me, I’d love to have you. We can check in with each other at Sugar O’Clock. And if not, that’s ok too!

Wishing you a wonderful week,

Ruth.

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